Saint of the Day – 3 April – Blessed Maria Teresa Casini (1864–1937) – Religious Sister and Founder of the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Priests known as Little Friends of Jesus , Apostle of Eucharistic Adoration, of Prayer especially for priests. Also known as Sister Maria Serafina of the Heart of Jesus Pierced and Mother Maria Teresa. Additional Memorial – 29 October (Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, diocese of Frascati, Italy, based on the date of her baptism). Born on 27 October 1864 in Frascati, Italy and died around 5am on 3 April 1937 at Oblate monastery on the via del Casaletto in Grottaferrata, Rome, Italy of natural causes, aged 72.
Maria Teresa Casini was born on 27 October 1864 to Tommaso Casini and Melania Rayner as their first born daughter, she was baptised on 29 October.
She travelled to Rome for her studies at the Santa Rufina boarding school that the nuns of the Madams of the Sacred Heart conducted. She received her First Communion on 7 May 1878 which solidified her vocation. Due to a period of ill health, she had to leave school and return home for recuperation.
Shortly after she turned eighteen, she responded to her vocation and met Father Arsenio Pellegrini who became her guide and her spiritual director and who served as the Abbot of the Basilian Monks of Grottaferrata. Despite entering the convent, ill health forced her to leave, though she attempted to enter once again yet failed due to the death of the foundress after which the institute she joined ceased to exist.
In due time, she became a nun after entering the monastery of Sepolte Vive in Rome on 2 February 1885. Casini only started to live in Grottaferrata with fellow entrants from 17 October 1892 onwards. On 2 February 1894, she founded the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
It was not until 1925 that Casini started the special work of the “Little Friends of Jesus” in order to promote and to cultivate the vocations of prospective priests. The group’s special character came to life when Cardinal Francesco Satolli requested Casini and her congregation to take up new and vigorous apostolic work. This group also worked for the sanctification of all priests and so the group opened a boarding school for males in order to please the Lord’s request for good and wholesome priests.
Throughout her life, Casini offered “the oblation of herself, in faithful response to the Love that overflows from the open Heart of the Savior, and which she imparted to so many daughters and priests”. This even earned the praise of Pope Pius X in 1904 who wrote: “In order to bring about the reign of Jesus Christ, nothing is more necessary than the sanctity of the clergy. God bless these sisters for their selfless love for these men of God, for through them, through the sacraments, we are fortified and purified for the journey”.
Casini grew ill in the final years of her life and she died in 1937. Her final words were: “I am peaceful. I feel God is near me”.
Casini’s order continues to flourish on an international level in places such as Africa, the United States of America, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, India, Guinea Bissau. The Generalate is in Rome and the Motherhouse is in Grottaferrata, Italy.
The first of the males of the Little Friends of Jesus that Casini herself oversaw was ordained as a priest in 1938.
Blessed Maria Teresa was buried in the chapel of the Zealots of the Sacred Heart in a nearby cemetery and her remains were re-interred at the Generalate of the Oblates of the Sacred Heart in Grottaferrata on 20 May 1965. She was Beatified on 31 October 2015 by Pope Francis. The Beatification recognition was celebrated at the Piazza San Pietro at the cathedral in Frascati, Italy, presided by Cardinal Angelo Amato. Her Beatification miracle involved the 25 – 27 June 2003 healing of the brain lesions and trauma of Jacob “Jack” Ronald Sebest, a five year old drowning victim in Youngstown, Ohio.
The Oblate Sisters are called to live and to participate intimately in the Oblation of Jesus to the Father, to repair and console His Pierced Heart, with an intense life of prayer and unconditional gift of ourselves, so that Priests may be holy. They also care for retired and convalescent priests in special homes which they administer.
From their Constitution:
“The exclusive pursuit of God – which is the goal of our community life – is the foundation of that spirit of prayer that must characterise our whole existence as
Christians, religious and Oblates. From the spirit of prayer, springs prayer itself as the source and fundamental expression of our community and personal life because “the Oblate’s life is intimately tied to the altar.” In founding the Institute, Mother
Teresa wanted to root it in faith, prayer and that unconditional gift of herself to priests, which knew no limits in our first sisters, if not in the consummation of life itself.
In silent and adoring prayer we express the typical attitude of our consecration and
Oblate spirituality, because with it, we join our feelings to the feelings of Jesus Himself, which are an endless act of love and an unceasing supplication to the Father for the Church and for its priests. Our individual prayer finds its climax in daily adoration. It brings us close to the altar, seen as the true source of our specific mission in the Church: suppliant and atoning prayer for the holiness of priests.”
“The life Jesus leads in the Sacrament of His love and which the Oblate must imitate and make her own is this – a life of generous and limitless sacrifice… a life of incessant prayer …a life of obedience… a life of poverty…”….Blessed Mother Maria Teresa